The Face of the Lord
Psalm 27:8, “When thou saidest, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek.”
The Bible often speaks of the face of the Lord. John 4:24 teaches that God in not a physical being, but “God is a Spirit.” Yet, to assist us in knowing God, God has revealed Himself in terms that allow us to understand Him as best as our limitations will allow. He uses what is linguistically called anthropormorphism, meaning that God has used the traits and features of man to describe Himself. This is to impress upon us that God is a real person. He speaks of His face.
Deity became flesh in the person of Jesus Christ (First John 1:14). Man can know God because God is revealed to man by the face of Christ. Second Corinthians 4:5,6, “For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” Jesus said, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.” (John 14:9). This means one can learn of God by learning through Christ.
The physical features of the face of Christ remain unknown to man. There have been many imaginations portrayed in paintings, but there are no valid actual or literal impressions or descriptions of His face. But we must not shut our eyes to His face because Scripture tells us important things about the face of the Lord. The face of the Lord speaks primarily of His character, a symbol of the true personality of Deity, especially as seen in Christ.
First Peter 3:12 teach, “The face of the Lord is against them that do evil.” Such are the evidences in both Old and New Testaments. Consider Eden when mankind sinned and turned from Paradise and the tree of life because of his transgression. The flood in the time of Noah gives evidence of God's face against evil when the wicked were destroyed. Sodom and Gomorrah stand as witnesses of this truth. In the New Testament we read where Christ twice cleansed the temple in Jerusalem, being filled with holy and righteous anger against those who had turned the house of the Lord into a den of thieves. That God's face is against them that do evil is seen in the judgment scene and the sentences to be pronounced by the Lord on the evil and good (Matthew 25:41,46).
Religious teachers generally agree that during that period of history called the Dark Ages when Romanism dominated so much of the world that the anger of God was stressed to the neglect of His love and compassion. For the past century the love, kindness and compassion of God has been stressed to the neglect of the Lord's anger against sin. People no longer fear punishment nor the wrath of God. It is wrong to think of God as an over-indulgent grandfather who raises no opposition to sin. Yes, our God is good and loves everybody. But God does not love evil and He does not approve whatever people do. God is love but this does not allow man to carryon a flirtation with sin. Love is not blind permissiveness. The need of our age concerning the knowledge of God is to know that God is love and that God is just.
Must Accept Both
Pau1 taught, Romans 11:22, “Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God...” We cannot have one without the other because they go together. While we thrill at His ho1iness, purity and righteousness, these very traits are the reason He is against the evi1doer. The attitude of the wor1d is not to be too disturbed by sin. This in itse1f is a reason to be disturbed. Sin destroys mankind. What a p1ight one is in to have the face of the Lord against him.
Nothing stirs God more than sin, even more than physical distress. When Jesus healed the man of palsy recorded in Matthew 9:1-8, He first dealt with the man's spiritual malady before turning attention to his physical distress. A physical ailment is tragic, but not near as much as spiritual condemnation. A mark of one's godliness is the degree of his pain at sin. The people on Pentecost were pricked in their hearts because they recognized they had sinned. We should be like God. Psalm 45:7, “Thou lovest righteousness and hateth wickedness.”
Luke 9:51, “He stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem.” This passage has primary reference to the direction Jesus traveled as He went toward the city. But the direction of His face at that time reveals a quality of character. Jesus was on His way to face the last days of His earthly ministry, including His arrest, betrayal, humiliation, mockery, suffering and death on the cross. Even so, His face was set stedfastly, immovably, toward Jerusalem. He was going to deliberately enter the city, fully determined to do the will of the Father and committed to provide the salvation of mankind. His time had come. He had foretold of these hours many times even as God's prophets before Him had done. As He later prayed, “Thy will be done.”
Sometimes the enemies of Jesus present Him as a weak, withdrawn, fearful, effeminate, shy person, lacking in resolve and void of the true spirit of greatness. But what does one see in the face of Jesus? He strides unflinchingly, undisturbed, undismayed with calmness, courage and poise that goes with commitment. There are few moments in the life of Christ on earth when His glory radiated more.
Matthew 17:2, “And was transfigured before them, and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.”Such was the countenance of Jesus when transfigured (changed) on that unnamed mount in Palestine in the presence of God, Moses, Elijah and His own apostles. In but a few days He would experience the darkest hours of His earthly life. But when matters were at their worst the Lord was brilliant and radiant, physically and spiritually. Someone has said of devoted Christians, “When the world is at its worst the Christian will be at his best.”Such is the imitation of Jesus. His face was as the sun.
Why this extraordinary radiance and at this time? It was because of the events surrounding it. His Deity was again acknowledged. The Father said, “This is my beloved Son,” as He had done at the time of Jesus' baptism by John. It was a genuine glorification and identification of Jesus.
It was a time of a divinely directed proclamation of His majesty. Second Peter 1:16-18, “For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honor and glory when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount” Never again could the glory of Christ be Questioned.
It was a time of recognition of the superiority and authority of Jesus Christ. He was superior to all laws and dispensations of the past, even the greatest messengers that came before Him, such as Moses the lawgiver and Elijah the prophet. They were not on equality with Him. It was Jesus to whom all must now pay allegiance and give heed. Of Him God said, “Hear ye him.” His face was dazzling and bright to accompany the brilliant proclamations made concerning Him on this occasion.
A Smitten Face
His enemies, “physically speaking” smote this same face of Jesus. They spit on His face and bruised Him as they proceeded to kill Him. Matthew 26:67, “Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands.” Because of who He was, what He taught, His perfect life, His redeeming message, His face was despised by the wicked people then and now. It is beyond our vocabulary to adequately supply descriptions of the infamous injustices the face of our Lord suffered and endured.
But someday we shall come face to face with the face of our Lord. This will be the day of judgment. We shall know the dazzling nature revealing His majesty. We shall behold a face belonging to the One whose personality and character has been revealed to us, even the face that was mistreated in order that we might be saved. “Face to face with Christ my Savior! Face to face, what will it be? When with rapture I behold Him; Jesus Christ who died for me."
Face to Face
On that day each of us shall stand face to face with Christ. We then must face the facts revealed concerning Him. We must face the commands He has given. We will face the promises He offered and the threats He warned. What will our face-to-face meeting be? Will it be like the time He turned His face toward Peter after Peter had denied Him? (Luke 22:61). “The Lord turned, and looked upon Peter.”Or will it be like the time when Stephen saw His face as he died under the stones that took his life. Stephen said, “But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God. And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.” (Acts 7:55,56). Our face-to-face meeting and the nature of it will be determined by what we do regarding Jesus Christ in this life.